The Leica M10-R

This review of the Leica M10-R is not overly technical, it is more of a personal account of my fascination with the camera and the Leica brand.

One year ago, I was gifted with the most expensive item I have ever owned — a Leica M10-R. It was a moment that I will never forget. I remember opening the bag and feeling a rush of excitement as I held the camera in my hands. The craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into the design of the camera was apparent from the moment I picked it up.

A view of the coffee bar from and a blur foreground of a laptop
One of the first shots I took upon taking the camera home
f/1.4, 1/1250s, ISO 6400

Carrying the Leica M10-R for the first time felt like carrying my whole life with me. The weight of the camera in my hands felt substantial and it reminded me of the responsibility that came with owning such a valuable tool. It was almost like carrying a piece of art with me wherever I went and was constantly aware of its presence. It was a constant battle between wanting to use the camera and wanting to protect it from any possible harm. Despite the added weight and responsibility, I felt like carrying the camera made me more aware of my surroundings for safekeeping and taking photos.

As I’m mostly working from home these days, there haven’t been many chances to take the Leica M10-R out for a spin as I would like. In the first few months of owning the camera, I was guilty of mostly using it to capture images of the various coffees I experimented and other products bought, and I understand that this is not a sufficient use of such a remarkable camera. When I do go out, I’m always worried about how to keep it safe. The quest for an ideal bag—one that offers both comfort and security—remains ongoing. Despite its seeming triviality, I hold the genuine belief that the right bag significantly impacts my confidence while carrying the Leica.

Coffee bar setup featuring Kalita Sagan Dripper
Coffee bar setup with Kalita Sagan Dripper
f/1.4, 1/250s, ISO 800
A close-up shot of Kimalunbi coffee by Wide Awake and a glass of cold brew
Kimalunbi by Wide Awake
f/1.4, 1/1500s, ISO 400
Pouring over a lastop drop of coffee to a cup
Last drop
f/1.4, 1/1250s, ISO 800

Build is incredible

Leica has a long-standing reputation for creating beautiful cameras, and my M10-R is no exception. From the moment I first held it in my hands, I knew that I was holding something truly special. The craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into its design are apparent in every shot I take. Even after a year of owning the Leica M10-R, I still feel like I’m holding it for the first time when I take it out of the cabinet.

A common issue experienced by many Leica users is the stiffness and difficulty in pulling out the ISO dial. After using the camera for just a few times, I found myself leaving the dial out, as other users have suggested.

Inside a bus on the way to Bantayan
Inside a bus on the way to Bantayan
f/4.8, 1/1000s, ISO 1600
A peek from the back of a persons head wearing headphones
f/1.4, 1/2000s, ISO 1600
Top down shot of a persons head slightly tlted from the ferry window
Ferry boat views
f/3.4, 1/750s, ISO 200

Maneuvering manual focus

Museum of Natural History; In focus is the Philippine Meteorite Bondoc
Museum of Natural History; In focus is the Philippine Meteorite Bondocs
f/3.4, 1/24s, ISO 800

Everything is manual. Although I have some experience with manual focus, it was not until I started producing and creating short films and documentaries that I truly realized its importance. I have been passionate about photography since we had our family camera, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F55, but I still find myself struggling to achieve my desired results. I have a clear understanding of my style and what I aim to capture in my pictures, but sometimes I still fall short. I have glasses, so the struggle doubles upon looking in the viewfinder. Focus and aperture control are set directly on an attached lens.

Back portion of the Sony Cybershot DSC-F55 with the lens tilted upwards
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F55
f/3.4, 1/250s, ISO 800

Turning the focus ring on the lens to line up a small rectangular “ghost” image with your subject in the viewfinder demands patience. Speaking of viewfinder, I believe that Leica could have done a better job on the M10-R’s EVF especially considering the camera’s 40MP sensor. Even when set to ‘High’ brightness, the viewfinder often appears dim, and the numbers only display when the shutter speed is in Auto. The Metering Memory Lock indicator — those red dots and arrows do not seem intuitive to me. And the EVF could really benefit from some improvements to enhance the user experience.

Jose Rizal's bust seen at the museum window
Rizal from behind
f2, 1/180s, ISO 800
Mirror shot while in line for Wai Ying at Binondo
While in line for Wai Ying at Binondo
f1.4, 1/360s, ISO 800

The Leica M10-R camera delivers exceptional image quality thanks to its 40MP full-frame sensor and the renowned “Leica look.” This paired with the Leica Summilux-M 35/f1.4 ASPH lens is particularly noteworthy, producing a natural look straight out of the camera. The colors produced by the camera were, in fact, surprising at first because it just looked so good, or is it because I haven’t upgraded my camera gear in the last five years?

My partner and I trying to properly focus the camera in the comfort room alley at BGC
Mirroing; Trying to properly focus the camera in a comfort room alley at BGC
f1.4, 1/60s, ISO 200
Mirror shot somewhere in Gujio, Makati
Mirroring; Somewhere in Guijo, Makati
f4, 1/1000s, ISO 400

Great quality comes with great requirements

A person in the background leaning on the wall while another person passes by in front of the camera, creating a motion blur
Waiting game at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport
f3.4, 1/15s, ISO 100

The 40MP sensor captures an impressive amount of data, but with great quality comes great storage requirements. Shooting 15 DNG photos alone can fill up to 3GB of storage. I was experimenting with the Monochrome feature and it almost easily fills up a 64GB SD card. These storage demands are indicative of the camera’s uncompromising pursuit of image quality and will require users to invest in ample storage solutions. I haven’t been able to experience the scary “Storage is full” prompt because I always ALWAYS transfer my files end of the day.

Person sitting on a barbershop chair
TUF in B&W (M10-R's built-in Monochrome)
f5.6, 1/180s, ISO 1600

Recently, I began using Capture One to edit my RAW files, which has caused me to consider moving away from Lightroom Classic after almost seven years of use. While it’s difficult to say goodbye to Lightroom’s efficient catalog management and browsing capabilities for my vast library of photos in various file formats, I’m still undecided on which photo editing software to ultimately choose because I still use Adobe software for creative work.

Undoubtedly, the Leica M10-R is a remarkable camera, although it may not cater to everyone’s requirements. For those who prioritize autofocus and USB charging, the Leica Q-Cameras may be a better fit. The Leica M10-R’s baseplate is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but can be delicate and frustrating to use at first. The price of the battery, a hefty ₱9,100 for a tiny battery, which I will still need to buy an extra one for peace of mind. Notably, the M10-R lacks the convenience of USB charging, with no ports on the camera itself. Just a removable baseplate for the battery and memory card.

When traveling with my Leica M10-R, I have had to get creative in my approach to carrying a charger. Due to the length of the original charger, I nearly encountered issues with airport baggage control. So I have resorted to using an Apple power adaptor to ensure that I am not held up during travel.

Chinese lanterns on the street of Binondo
Binondo lanterns
f4.8, 1/25s, ISO 400
I struggle with capturing images in low-light environments, particularly at night. These situations can be stressful, so I sometimes choose to use my iPhone 12 Pro instead. It’s something I’m currently trying to master since some of the events I attend take place indoors or at night. Daytime is just the most favorable and enjoyable to work with. Some of the photos included here are unedited and highlight the beauty of natural lighting.
People talking
Mother and Child Exhibit at Qube Gallery, Crossroads
f4, 1/250s, ISO 3200
People getting together in a community marketplace
Molave Community Marketplace
f4, 1/180s, ISO 6400
Silhouettes of people during sunset watching
Sunset/People watching at Molaboal
f/2, 1/4000s, ISO 200
People talking at a table beside the beach
Sunset/People watching at Molaboal
f/2, 1/25s, ISO 800
Sunset watching
Sunset/People watching at Molaboal
f/4, 1/1000, ISO 100

Final thoughts

Photography has always been a peculiar pursuit for me. I initially associated it with images of models and commercial products. With the Sony Cyber-shot as our first digital family camera, my focus shifted toward documentary photography. Though my photographs may not exude the level of professionalism commonly associated with the medium, their value lies in the stories they convey and the emotions they evoke.

Owning a Leica was something I never imagined. It’s like owning the Patek Philippe of cameras. (Which by the way would’ve been an exceptional choice.) Although owning such a camera doesn’t necessarily make one a good photographer, it has given me a greater appreciation for the quality craftsmanship and design that goes into creating such a beautiful camera. I may not have fully unlocked the Leica M10-R’s potential yet, but I’m excited to continue learning and experimenting with it.

Mirror selfie in an elevator
Obligatory Leica mirror selfie
f1.4, 1/60s, ISO 3200

Thoughts? Email me.

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